Romney On Rape And Incest

Several readers are echoing this one:

I would disagree with this statement in your Ad War Update: "One of those ad's claims is misleading; Romney doesn't oppose abortions in the case of rape or incest, though Ryan does." This is another area when Romney is trying to have it both ways. He supported the personhood amendment in 2007. And in the Huckabee faith forum in 2011, Romney said he agreed with the statement that life was formed at conception and that he would sign a personhood amendment if it hit his desk. 

So Romney is all over the map on this – being pro-choice, pro-life, for a personhood amendment, for pushing this back to the states, for legislating this at the federal level. Do you even need to think twice about trusting him?

The Obama ad in question says, "Both Romney and Ryan backed proposals to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest." While Ryan's support is not in question, the evidence cited to corner Romney was a somewhat rambling statement he made at a 2007 primary debate. The moderator asked: "If hypothetically, Roe v. Wade was overturned, and the Congress passed a federal ban on all abortions and it came to your desk, would you sign it? Yes or no?" Romney replied:

I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period. That would be wonderful. I'd be delighted. I'd be delighted to sign that bill. But that's not where we are. That's not where America is today. Where America is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.

From that it is very difficult to assume that what Romney meant by "all" was abortions "even in cases of rape or incest", especially when considering the numerous times that he or his campaign have stated his support for such exemptions (examples here, here, here, here and, just this week, here). Romney has voiced support for personhood amendments in the past – and that is the basis for the Obama campaign ads. And sure, if a zygote has all the rights of an adult, I fail to see how rape and incest are justifications for what some would see as murder. The trouble is the following:

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, a Washington-based advocacy group, has compiled the congressional bills in favor of an amendment dating back to 1973. Some of those bills have no exceptions for rape and incest. However, the most recent versions do.

Romney has backed constitutional amendment that would define "human life" as being created at conception, but life is not the same as "person" – and the Romney campaign made this clear to Ben Smith last November. Also, the Obama campaign had this to say yesterday:

Mr. Romney supports the Human Life Amendment, which would ban abortion in all instances, even in the case of rape and incest. In fact, that amendment is a central part of the Republican Party’s platform that is being voted on [today].

Indeed, just as it did in 2004 and 2008, the GOP this cycle has included the Human Life Amendment in its platform, and it again includes no language regarding rape or incest exemptions. But party platforms are not equal to a candidate's views, and never have been, as both Bush and McCain supported [NYT] rape/incest exemptions despite the similarly broad platform language. As Mataconis puts it:

The GOP has included support for the so-called Human Life Amendment in its platform going back decades now and there’s never really been any serious attempt to pass such an amendment in Congress. Furthermore, the actual importance of party platforms is largely overblown by pundits, and political opponents. Most voters apparently don’t pay much attention to them, and neither do the politicians once their elected.

The problem, of course, is that after Akin, this year much attention is focused on it. As it should be. The platform is identical with Ryan's past views – and he is the veep nominee – even if it is not formally identical with Romney's (at last check).